RCL C Proper 10 Complementary
Deuteronomy 30:9-14, Psalm 25:1-9, Colossians 1:1-14, Saint Luke 10:25-37

On a lazy summer’s day, we run headlong into two of the biggest ideas in Christianity and into one of the best-known parables in the Gospels. As I say often in one way or another: it’s never feast or famine; it’s always feast or feast.

The Lesson from Deuteronomy propels us directly into the Deuteronomic Theology worked out repeatedly in great detail in the historical books of the Old Testament. And here is that theology in a nutshell: obedience to God’s commandments leads inevitably to success while disobedience leads inevitably to disaster. We heard it in the Lesson: “The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosper…when you obey the Lord your God by observing his commandments.”[1]

The commandments, of course, are the revealed Law in the Ten Commandments. But those commandments also are—and this is the second big idea of today—implanted by God in the hearts of his creatures. You heard it in the same Lesson: “the word…is…in your heart for you to observe.”[2] In other words, the commandments whose obedience brings success and whose disobedience brings disaster are known both on stone tablets and on the human heart. Those commandments are both revealed law and natural law. They are accessible to everyone.

Consequently, when we come to the lawyer in the Gospel, we come to someone who knows the revealed law through education and who knows the same law naturally through his humanity. The lawyer answers Jesus’ question well when he replies with the Summary of the Law. But the answer doesn’t answer the lawyer’s need for certainty and his need to hold back complete obedience. And so, he asks, “Who is my neighbor?”[3], knowing the answer but hoping that the meaning of “is” is something that will let him off the hook of complete obedience.

Fortunately, Jesus answers his question with the great parable of the Good Samaritan. You know it cold, I know. The man beaten and half dead, if dead, would ritually contaminate the priest and the Levite if they lent him assistance according to the Law revealed on stone in all its elaborations. So they pass by on the other side taking no chances. But the Samaritan, outside the Law and the Prophets, has the Law written on his heart, and he proves neighbor to the man beaten and robbed. Jesus’ answer removes the lawyer’s wiggle room. “Is,” in fact, means “is.” Your neighbor is your neighbor.

If the lawyer’s wiggle room has been removed, so has yours, and so has mine. We have to face the fact that God expects us to love our neighbor as God has loved us.

[1] Deuteronomy 30:9-10.

[2] Deuteronomy 30:14.

[3] Saint Luke 10:29.